Colom­bia’s pres­i­dent wants rebels to set dead­line for peace

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pres­i­dent Juan Man­ual San­tos de­liv­ered a sharp re­buke to Colom­bia’s largest rebel group Fri­day, call­ing on its lead­ers to set a dead­line to reach a peace deal fol­low­ing this week’s slaugh­ter of 11 sol­diers while they were sleep­ing.

San­tos didn’t pro­pose any cut­off date to con­clude peace talks tak­ing place the last two years in Cuba be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia. But he warned the guer­ril­las that the coun­try’s pa­tience is wear­ing thin

“Don’t be deaf to us Colom­bians who are clam­or­ing that the time to end the war has come,” he said in re­marks at a re­cep­tion for vis­it­ing South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye. “Time lim­its to ne­go­ti­a­tions need to be put in place,” he added.

Ear­lier in the day, hun­dreds of out­raged Colom­bians poured into the streets of sev­eral cities to join fu­neral pro­ces­sions for the 11 sol­diers, the ma­jor­ity from poor back­grounds, who were killed Tues­day dur­ing a mid­night FARC attack in a ru­ral ham­let in south­west­ern Colom­bia.

San­tos, ac­com­pa­nied by mem­bers of his Cabi­net, served as a pall­bearer for one of the fallen sol­diers at a me­mo­rial ser­vice in Bogota, the vic­tim’s cas­ket draped in the Colom­bian flag.

The attack came as a shock to nor­mally battle-hard­ened Colom­bians be­cause it oc­curred af­ter months of steady progress in ne­go­ti­a­tions that saw the FARC de­clare a uni­lat­eral cease- fire and the gov­ern­ment re­spond with a sus­pen­sion of air raids on rebel camps.

Fol­low­ing the attack, San­tos or­dered the air strikes to re­sume. But con­ser­va­tive crit­ics, and some mem­bers of the mil­i­tary, want him to go even fur­ther.

While San­tos said he shares Colom­bians’ out­rage over the attack, he gave no in­di­ca­tion he is con­sid­er­ing end­ing talks, say­ing he was elected to pur­sue peace not per­pet­u­ate war.

“The eas­i­est de­ci­sion to­day is to say war, war and more war,” said San­tos, who as de­fense min- is­ter in the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Al­varo Uribe was re­spon­si­ble for de­liv­er­ing the rebels some of the big­gest set­backs. “But I was elected by Colom­bians to make peace and that is my man­date.”

US Con­demns ‘bru­tal’ FARC

Attack in Colom­bia

The United States branded a FARC attack that killed 11 Colom­bian sol­diers “bru­tal” Fri­day and ac­cused the Marx­ist guer­ril­las of vi­o­lat­ing their uni­lat­eral cease- fire.

Marie Harf, act­ing State Depart­ment spokes­woman, said in a state­ment: “We reaf­firm our con­tin­u­ing sup­port to the gov­ern­ment of Colom­bia in its ef­forts to end the na­tion’s 50 year con­flict.

“We condemn the bru­tal attack in Cauca or­ches­trated by the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia (FARC). “The of­fen­sive was in di­rect vi­o­la­tion of the uni­lat­eral cease- fire they com­mit­ted to last De­cem­ber.”

“It is our sin­cere hope that ne­go­tia­tors reach an ac­cord soon to bring peace to Harf added.

all Colom­bians,”

AFP/AP

(Above) A Colom­bian sol­dier, vic­tim of a land­mine, stands next to flow­ers out­side a mil­i­tary base in Medellin, An­tio­quia de­parte­ment, Colom­bia on Fri­day, April 17 as he pays trib­ute to eleven sol­diers killed last Wed­nes­day in Cauca depart­ment, in an attack by the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia (FARC) guer­ril­las. (Right) Colom­bia’s Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos speaks to the me­dia as South Korea’s Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye lis­tens dur­ing her wel­com­ing cer­e­mony at the pres­i­den­tial palace in Bogota, Colom­bia on Fri­day.

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